Synthetic drugs are increasing in popularity in the United States. Because many people make the mistake of assuming they are safe or naturally grown, they overlook the real facts of these designer drugs. Many new versions of these drugs are manufactured in China and brought into the United States each year, and they often contain substances that have never been tested on people.

People also make the argument that synthetic drugs are safe because they are legal. In reality, states are taking action to ban certain substances found in the drugs. However, once these laws are passed, the drug designers begin to use different and equally dangerous chemicals, making it difficult for legislation to keep up.

Many of these chemicals are poisonous to your mind and your body, with emergency room visits increasing across the country due to adverse and unpredictable effects. Unfortunately, many people, especially teenagers, remain undeterred in their use. This is because the drugs are often cheap can be found in many stores and on the internet.

There are many kinds of synthetic drugs, but two of the most popular types include Synthetic Stimulants and Synthetic Cannabinoids.

Synthetic Stimulants

People often hear about “bath salts” being abused in the news, but there are other types of designer stimulants. You might not recognize a synthetic stimulant when you see it. Manufacturers often deceptively use “not for human consumption” labels on bath salts, cleaners, and plant food to hide the fact that they were manufactured for dangerous and recreational drug use. People who use synthetic stimulants often inhale or smoke the drugs, but sometimes they simply ingest them.

The dangerous and side effects of synthetic stimulants are numerous and can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
  • Nightmares
  • Stomach problems
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

For long-term users, “bath salt” use can lead to depression, brain damage, kidney and liver failure, and possibly death.


Synthetic Cannabinoids

The most commonly used synthetic cannabinoid is often referred to as “synthetic marijuana.” This is a misleading label, because the drugs are much more potent than marijuana and cause a very different and unpredictable response. To create synthetic marijuana, drug creators mix toxic chemicals with plant matter. To achieve a high, people smoke or ingest the drug, which is commonly referred to as Spice, K2, Black Mamba, or Bliss, among other names.

Synthetic marijuana often comes in small, shiny packets labeled as incense or potpourri, and they are commonly found in novelty stores, gas stations, or online. Synthetic marijuana is marketed to attract young people, and five percent of high school seniors admit to having used synthetic cannabinoids at least once. So if you have a teenager, it’s important to talk to them about how it’s availability in stores doesn’t make the drug safe.

The symptoms of synthetic cannabinoid use may vary, as an individual can have a different reaction every time they inhale or ingest the drug. Reactions can include:

  • Violent reactions
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicidal ideation

Long-term side effects of use may include memory loss and paralysis. Users of synthetic marijuana may also experience withdrawal from the drug if they try to quit. Many people who use these drugs are often described as “zombie-like” in their appearance, moving slowly and struggling to piece together their thoughts.

If you know someone who is using synthetic stimulants or cannabinoids, never hesitate to talk to them. Explain to them that being able to buy a drug in a store doesn’t make it safe. Substances such as rat poison have been found before in these designer drugs. Even if they’ve used the drugs before, they could die or engage in violent behavior on their next try. A short-term high is never worth damaging your mind and body in the long-term.

Because mental health professionals have become more aware of synthetic drugs in the past few years, help is available to users. Encourage your friend or family member to take the next step and ask for help from a doctor or counselor. They may be addicted to the drug and require substance use treatment or medical treatment due to side-effects.

With the right support and information, no one needs a quick and dangerous high to escape life’s challenges. Educate your friends and family about the dangers of synthetic drugs.


Last Updated: Nov 25, 2018